Friday, 29 February 2008
Thursday, 28 February 2008
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Apart from more time for art, gardening and conservation, one of the things I wish to do is begin writing the book which has been filling my thoughts for years. Can't give too much away obviously, but in my mind it's there, and hopefully will be an amusing account of my experiences with wildlife and conservation. Will anyone read it, will I actually finish it, who knows but as they say, everyone has a book inside them, which finally explains why I'm overweight....!! But one of the things I've been doing is searching through old photos, and came across this, my very first encounter with Wildlife at Flamingo World in North Yorkshire. Not sure when this was but think around 1970..... and I was terrified!!!!
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
This morning went for a walk more than a birdwatch down at the coast. Last night we had a gale blow up the Bristol Channel and driving rain, so everything feels fresh and clean, the sky is azure blue, and real warmth in the sun. Not much to report birdwise, except a huge flock of gulls in and over the fields behind the beach. You could see they were enjoying the wind, flying just for fun it seemed. I didn't count anything but at last 100+ of both Lesser Black Backed and Common, plus a fair few Herring Gull.
Reports too of 2 Sand Martin locally in the last 2 days, early migrants are here. Sadly though the daffodils you see above, were flattened overnight in the wind. Oh well that's Life !!
Monday, 25 February 2008
I'm getting very fond of these chaps, having spent all winter watching them. A flash of colour in estuary. Bridgwater Bay just south of here is a major moulting ground for these so stragglers also winter here, in low hundreds. For the first time I'd noticed they are enjoying the spring and starting to pair up. Usually silent, what a load of squabbling and neck stretching seemed to going on. The attached photo is rubbish but thought I'd post it to shows the difference in size between the males and females. Shelducks also have a very odd collective noun, Dopping.
In the end I spent 4 hours at Sand Bay, walking out to the point as the tide dropped, which paid off, no major finds but good numbers of the usual, and 4 nice close Rock Pipits, and 7 male Stonechat were a good watch. The day ended with not only the female Merlin, which I watched then lost, but then whilst trying to locate her, slap my thigh with a rubber chicken, a Male Merlin on a piece of driftwood. Cracking view of this as it hunted. Those Linnet and Skylark are taking a beating. But all the while, Skylarks kept on singing while I just sat quietly watching from the rocks what was going on, before that is the lure of 6 nations Rugby forced me home to a chilled cider.
Peace and quiet except for the birds at Low tide
We get monsters on the Somerset coast !!!Sunday : Obviously drinking cider on Saturday caused me to be up at 5am Sunday, so after not being able to get back to sleep, set off at 7am to "do the Chew Valley". The route went something like this with the salient birds seen.
Puxton NR, a Grey Heron,
Sandford Sewerage Works, 2 Canada Geese;
Rickford weir, 2 Grey Wagtails,
Bladgon Lake, Scaup, Goosander, loads of smaller birds about especially Chaffinch.
At Chew Valley Lake (CVL), the largest freshwater lake in the south west, a Goldeneye on the lake (99) and then over to CVL Heron's Pool, which had been flooded but was very low, 13 Little Grebe coming into breeding plumage, 7 male Shovler with their women, and a very showy Water Rail, plus a fair number of Wigeon, Teal and Pied Wags.
Then CVL Herriots Pool, looking for a Pintail. Before I saw them, spotted wader at the edge, dark olive green back, eye ring, clean underbelly, hint of a bob, dark legs, dark bill, that rubber chicken moment hit me again, a Green Sandpiper - I was 99% sure, interesting how the rarities stick in the mind, but as I didn't have my guide book with me text'd Stephen Moss to confirm, (and it was and so became my 100th bird of the year, and second sighting ever). Followed this with 7 male Pintail (101) and a Ruddy Duck (102) and a calling Cetti's Warbler, already had this.
Finally popped over to Litton Reservoir, interesting as half is in Somerset, half on North East Somerset. Practically first bird was Chifchaff, then a Blackcap, Little Grebe making one heck of a din with their pair duet calls and 2 Kingfisher flight calling which is not something heard often, plus 2 Ravens flying over cronking nicely. All in all then a weekend when "love is in the air".
Rickford Weir - Grey Wagtail countryAnd finally, this last photo has nothing at all to do with the weekend but I took it last week when we had this fine frosty weather, and I quite like it. It's the Catholic Cathedral of Bristol, ultra modern design in the middle of Victorian Clifton. I've always liked this juxt d position in architecture of the old and the ultra modern.
Friday, 22 February 2008
I fully appreciate why many birders chase the rarities across the world, but that has never appealed to me. As a result I'll never make a top birder. No one would believe me when I say I've not made an effort to view the Cattle Egrets in Somerset this winter. I've not been close to where they are, so unless I pass by, they'll remain un-viewed.
Years ago I knew a top birder who would charter helicopters when some poor unfortunate bird was wrecked in the Scilly Isles, hop over, see the bird for 5 minutes then come home. That's not birding for me and why I gave up on birdwatching in my teens to study Mustelids (especially Otters).
I could talk about Otters for ages. In the 1980's I'd spend weeks on Skye watching them, never ever lost the thrill of seeing an Otter come in off the sea, and walk up towards where I was hidden as a voyeur to it's daily business. I was once so engrossed on watching an Otter, I hadn't seen an Atlantic Seal haul up on the beach behind me. I was stuck then, as to move I'd have scared both. What better way to spend a summers day on Skye?
Back to the story. As it's half term, the roads are gloriously free of spotlessly clean 4x4's taking children to school in Bristol. My 20 mile drive to work up the M5 is a very pleasurable 25 minutes. This morning I seemed to be 15 minutes ahead of myself, so stopped at Leigh Woods, a National Trust property on the "old Somerset" side of the Avon Gorge, in the hope of a Coal Tit for this years list. A species which seems to be playing hide and seek with me this year. Before Christmas 2 were in the garden every day. Where are they? They're up to something.
Bristol is very lucky to have both Leigh Woods and Ashton Court on its doorstep, both large open areas which were protected by the Smyth Family from development, then bequeathed in lieu of death duties. The woods were alive with birdsong, but not a single Coal Tit !! However I had a fabulous view of a Marsh Tit, which is the first I've seen for nearly a year.
These are though birds to ID, having only been separated as a separate species from Willow Tits in the 1890's. Guide books blithely quote sooty (Willow) or shiny (Marsh) head, or icing on wing bars (Willow) but in the field when they're flitting about, that's not easy. Luckily though this one handily called it's classic Pit-Chew call, so there you go, Marsh Tit in a tree, species 98.
2 species to go to 100, so may cheat and go to Slimbridge over the weekend and get some winter wildfowl before they depart.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
A scan along the edge of the marsh revealed 73 Redshank (sadly I did count them all). 60+ Shelduck, 20+ Curlew, an impressive count of 7-800 Dunlin, 2 Lesser Black Backed, 2 Herring, 40+ Black Headed, plus a smattering of the usual passerines. Nothing unusual, but good numbers.
On a secondary scope scan, lo and behold a female Merlin on some driftwood. Smattering of Merlin reports here recently but not seen it myself. Watched for about 5 minutes, cracking views in the scope (and no camera!!!!!), then she turned her head to take off. Using the bins, followed her flying low in a circle and then amazingly come back towards me. Absolutely stunning views, as I followed her and she got closer and closer. Then all of a sudden, up she flew and I almost missed with the bins as she struck out at a Linnet, which failed to be caught. She returned to the perch and did another chase and grab (again failed) about 2 minutes later. After this failed chase, she flew off over the scrub towards the car park and I never saw her again. But that's enough for me, I drove to work a happy man.
Just before driving off a brief walk along the scrub line picked out a male and female Stonechat 20 feet away tail flicking each other from adjacent branches in the same bush. Lovely. Now why can't all birds be as obliging as a Merlin and Stonechat…. Sit on a nice perch, good views for the observer and good behaviour. None of this messing about in undergrowth.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Planned to go birding today with three other birders I've known for a while who are a lot more experienced than I am. I tagged along very much as the pupil. 8.15 am rendesvous on the Somerset Levels for a fry up before the off. Which meant a 7am depart from here. Boy was it cold setting off, I'm only glad my car has a self defrosting windscreen. Glorious sunrise over Bruton on the drive up.
The Levels were gloriously frosted, but we headed to the Mendips for a Grey Shrike (not found) but a nice Roe deer, complete with antlers in velvet, 2 Mistle Thrush were the highlights. Then down to Cheddar Resevoir, where almost immediately across the other side of the water, a "small grebe" was spotted, which after a quick dash over there was confirmed as a Red Necked Grebe. How on earth that was spotted half a km away through a scope is a mystery to me but proves we all lean something from others. Great Crested Grebes are also well into courtship display. Left Cheddar after clocking a male Siskin and Blackcap, and headed to Shapwick NNR for the Firecrest. Firecrest not found by bird song specialist, but fair numbers of passerines.
Sadly I had to depart then, while they headed off to Minehead and Hinckly for Iceland Gull (Text confirmed they'd bagged that one in a carpark) and high tide. The drive home saw me stop at a field near Yeovil, containing 9 Buzzard, 200+ Lapring, while over the lane 50+ Fieldfare.
In Afternoon had a quick look down at the river here, 2 Roe deer in the thicket, and a chiffchaff singing.
Later at about 10.30pm as we drove back from Yeovil having seen the Ukelele Orchestra of Britain (I'd recommend these) Barn Owl across the road at Stalbridge Park brings year total to 96. 4 more to top the 100 species by end Feb.
Saturday, 16 February 2008
Opened the bedroom window this morning and lay back and listened to the "Dawn Chorus" while drinking a cup of tea, can there be a better way to wake up? Don't think it was appreciated by the other half, bit cold apparently, shut that window.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
It was featured on last night's ITV News at Ten, as Trevor McDonald's "and finally" item. Good news the Owl has made a full recovery and was released back into the area, complete with film crew. I'll not comment on the fact I rang the story into colleages at the BBC Bristol newsroom on Saturday and it never made the screens.
And Finally :-) if any of you are going to Alnwick Playhouse this Saturday to watch the Swing Factor Final being held there, please vote for my friend Sarah.....
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Nothing too much to report, except a Sparrowhawk near Cerne Abbas, and a Little Egret at Piddlehinton, The snowdrops are however staggering, every roadside is in flower, and with the daffodils, celendines and speedwells, a real feel of bright and new colour in the countryside at last. And speaking of colour, aren't pheasant's fabulous? Stupid but that glorious the sheen in sunlight is just amazing, every colour of the rainbow.... I nearly ran this one over !!
Sunlight, watercolour on paper 2007
Moon Hare, Charcoal 2006 Sold
Orange Hue, Watercolour 2006
Moth # 2 to replace the one I sold in 2006. Charcoal 2007
Struggled with this one, commission for a Christmas present 2006. Never met the dog (in France) so pencil drawing based on 2 photos. Just about got there.
Purple Mist, watercolour 2007: Sold
Lane, Watercolour, 2007
Sepia Mist, Watercolour, 2007
Henge, Pencil, 2007
Eggardon Hill, Charcoal, 2005
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
The painting at the bottom of these three was completed using a 2 inch rubber roller, paint on, slosh it about and for me (not everyone) I can see an abstract Cockrell head and eye. The colours aren't as sharp here as in the originals I'm afraid.
Monday, 11 February 2008
Sunday Morning : Buoyed with an aborted birdwatch in glorious weather on Saturday, and failure to get to the Exe I drove first thing to the Huntspill NNR in Somerset, to hopefully get an Avocet on the Parrett Estuary. Left home in sunshine and blue skies and arrived at the Huntspill 8.30am in dense freezing fog. It'll lift I thought so walking with my kit for a mile to the sea, I was still surprised to see no signs of any blue sky. As a dog walker said, you are a bit optimistic.
So that was the highlight of the weekend. Also managed to add a small wildlife pond (below) to the existing one, as there are frogs around and I've been meaning to do it for ages. Let's see if anything happens. Main birds seen were 40+ Grey Plover, plenty of Skylarks singing, 100+ Curlew, a gloriously lit up male Bullfinch at Puxton Church, Grey Wagtail at Banwell River, Long Tailed Tit's in my garden (a 1st) and a strange Leucistic headed Cormorant (below Left) on the Levels and 3 Roe Deer (Below Right).